So let’s assume for a moment, that your new project is not a repair or replacement (like a new roof) or an upgrade like new windows, but is instead a remodel or addition or significant improvement. In order to avoid conflict and reduce stress, it is imperative that whichever contractor you select be on the same page as you. You have a pretty good idea of what you want. While your vision may not be completely clear, you can see it in your mind’s eye.
It is imperative that whoever is in charge of turning the vision into reality sees the same vision. Otherwise, they could end up following one track based upon their interpretation of what you’ve said or perhaps because they think they know better; and you’re on another track and you just end up passing each other or in a perpetual conflict. Remember the contractor works for you – you are the client and this person is going to be in your house or business for days on end. You’re looking for a connection and that can only happen face-to-face. Treat it like a job interview.
Did they show up on time?
First, start your evaluation before they walk in the door – did they show up on time? If they’re running late, did they call and let you know? If they’re late or don’t communicate before they have a contract, how do you think they’ll be once they have you under contract? Second, recognize that a professional sales person knows a sale is easier when they’ve established a relationship. The easiest way to build a relationship is to “tell them what they want to hear”.
Be prepared with good interview questions like “How many other projects will you be working on while working on mine?” or “Tell me how you can guarantee that you’ll finish on time?” Third, when I’m talking to a perspective client, I’m looking for opportunities to demonstrate that I get it; I understand their vision. And if I don’t get it, I’m asking questions or making suggestions. When I leave, I want both of us to truly believe we’re on the same track.
If the contractor isn’t making suggestions or asking probing questions that demonstrate their understanding, you need to ask questions like, “do you see any other options” or “do you see any other way to achieve what we want?” And never forget that effective communication is a two-way street – mind reading is a not a qualification for getting a contractor’s license.
It’s almost impossible to anticipate and eliminate all potential areas of conflict
Remember that poor communication is the underlying cause of most conflicts between consumer and contractor (this assumes of course, that we’re dealing with honest individuals on both sides). It may manifest itself as a Change Order or Assumption or Unfulfilled Expectation or any of a number of other clash points. It’s almost impossible to anticipate and eliminate all potential areas of conflict beforehand, but assuming that both you and the contractor are not playing some sort of competitive game, completely satisfactory solutions can be found when you’re on the same track. The basis for that understanding is built in the interview.